BRANDON - The prep football season is at the halfway point. That means lots of district matchups and races for playoff positions are heating up.
Locally, none would appear more intriguing than Durant and Riverview. And the two squads don't even play for another four weeks. However, as these two Class 5A, District 7 foes chase a championship, plenty of interesting factors are coming into view.
The Cougars and Sharks sit atop the district, each 2-0 in league play. In two key district games, the 3-1 Sharks host East Bay tonight while the undefeated (4-0) Cougars play at Brandon.
Wins by both tonight would keep each team unbeaten in the district and could help guarantee that their Halloween night meeting at Riverview would be for all the district marbles.
Plenty of football remains to be played, but Durant and Riverview have been excellent during the early part of the season.
Durant's defense has allowed just 26 points in four games, with their average margin of victory being 25 points. The Cougars have had solid running from senior backs Sean Zentmeyer and R.J. Pollard, who are each averaging close to 100 yards a game.
Riverview's offense is equally strong, possibly better. Running back Tyrone McKenzie has been outstanding, posting 232 yards against Plant City and 288 last week against Bloomingdale. Fullback Cecil Coltrane has been an excellent second option, rushing for 184 yards against the Bulls.
Both squads will have three district games after tonight and each must still face Lakeland, who along with East Bay, remains in the district race at 1-1. So regardless of who wins or loses tonight, things look to be close to the very end of the season in this district.
In other games, Plant City is at Bloomingdale, Newsome faces Evangel Christian, Armwood is at Leto, and Robinson is at Tampa Bay Tech. All kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m.
PLANT CITY (1-3, 0-1 in 5A-7) at BLOOMINGDALE (2-2, 0-1 in 5A-7)
Last Week: Plant City def. Wharton 28-14; Bloomingdale lost to Riverview 42-0.
Last Year: Plant City def. Bloomingdale 20-7.
The Skinny: Plant City showed grit with 14 fourth quarter points in its win last week. Bloomingdale isn't faring as well, having lost its last two games by a combined score of 97-8.
The Edge: The Raiders are attempting to salvage their season and they'll continue the restoration project tonight at the Bulls' expense.
DURANT (4-0, 2-0 in 5A-7) at BRANDON (2-2, 0-1 in 5A-7)
Last Week: Durant def. East Bay 28-10; Brandon lost to Lakeland 35-21.
Last Year: Durant def. Brandon 28-23.
The Skinny: The Cougars defense was solid in the second half last week while Brandon was unspectacular in its loss to Lakeland.
The Edge: The Eagles need a win to keep pace in the district, but it won't happen - Durant stays unbeaten.
EAST BAY (2-2, 1-1 in 5A-7) at RIVERVIEW (3-1, 2-0 in 5A-7)
Last Week: East Bay lost to Durant 28-10; Riverview def. Bloomingdale 42-0.
Last Year: East Bay def. Riverview 40-16.
The Skinny: East Bay needs to get back on track after its tough loss to Durant. Riverview running back Tyrone McKenzie leads a Shark offense that has scored 135 points in its last three games - all wins.
The Edge: East Bay's season is on the line tonight and they'll play tough, but the Riverview offense is just awesome. Expect more points from the Sharks.
ARMWOOD (4-0, 1-0 in Class 4A, District 10) at LETO (1-3, 0-1 in 4A-10)
Last Week: Armwood def. Jefferson 35-14; Leto lost to Robinson 48-8.
Last Year: Didn't play.
The Skinny: Armwood, ranked third in Class 4A, is the best team in Hillsborough County. Leto is among the worst.
The Edge: Armwood big in this one.
NEWSOME (0-4) at LAKELAND EVANGEL CHRISTIAN (2-2, 0-0 in A-9)
Last Week: Newsome lost to Sickles 31-0; Evangel def. Cocoa Spacecoast 35-7.
Last Year: First meeting.
The Skinny: Newsome continues to struggle while searching for that increasingly elusive first win. Evangel, meanwhile, is tuning up for its own district opener next week.
The Edge: Newsome's search continues. Another good effort by the Wolves, but another loss.
ROBINSON (3-1, 1-0 in 3A-10) at TAMPA BAY TECH (2-2, 1-0 in 3A-10)
Last Week: Robinson def. Leto 48-8; Tampa Bay Tech lost to Gaither 22-13.
Last Year: Didn't play.
The Skinny: With Jefferson playing its first district game tonight, the winner of this one gets a leg up on the Dragons and the district race.
The Edge: That should be motivation enough for Robinson's offense, which is only slightly better than Tech's tough defense.